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A short story by B. M. Bower

Happy Jack, Wild Man

Title:     Happy Jack, Wild Man
Author: B. M. Bower [More Titles by Bower]

Happy Jack, over on the Shonkin range, saw how far it was to the river and mopped the heat-crimsoned face of him with a handkerchief not quite as clean as it might have been. He hoped that the Flying U wagons would be where he had estimated that they would be; for he was aweary of riding with a strange outfit, where his little personal peculiarities failed to meet with that large tolerance accorded by the Happy Family. He didn't think much of the Shonkin crew; grangers and pilgrims, he called them disgustedly in his mind. He hoped the Old Man would not send him on that long trip with them south of the Highwoods--which is what he was on his way to find out about. What Happy Jack was hoping for, was to have the Old Man--as represented by Chip--send one of the boys back with him to bring over what Flying U cattle had been gathered, together with Happy's bed and string of horses. Then he would ride with the Happy Family on the familiar range that was better, in his eyes, than any other range that ever lay outdoors--and the Shonkin outfit could go to granny. (Happy did not, however, say "granny").

He turned down the head of a coulee which promised to lead him, by the most direct route--if any route in the Badlands can be called direct--to the river, across which, and a few miles up on Suction Creek, he confidently expected to find the Flying U wagons. The coulee wound aimlessly, with precipitous sides that he could not climb, even by leading his horse. Happy Jack, under the sweltering heat of mid-June sunlight, once more mopped his face, now more crimson than ever, and relapsed into his habitual gloom. Just when he was telling himself pessimistically that the chances were he would run slap out on a cut bank where he couldn't get down to the river at all, the coulee turned again and showed the gray-blue water slithering coolly past, with the far bank green and sloping invitingly.

The horse hurried forward at a shuffling trot and thrust his hot muzzle into the delicious coolness. Happy Jack slipped off and, lying flat on his stomach, up-stream from the horse, drank deep and long, then stood up, wiped his face and considered the necessity of crossing. Just at this point the river was not so wide as in others, and for that reason the current flowed swiftly past. Not too swiftly, however, if one took certain precautions. Happy Jack measured mentally the strength of the current and the proper amount of caution which it would be expedient to use, and began his preparations; for the sun was sliding down hill toward the western skyline, and he wished very much to reach the wagons in time for supper, if he could.

Standing in the shade of the coulee wall, he undressed deliberately, folding each garment methodically as he took it off. When the pile was complete to socks and boots, he rolled it into a compact bundle and tied it firmly upon his saddle. Stranger, his horse, was a good swimmer, and always swam high out of water. He hoped the things would not get very wet; still, the current was strong, and his characteristic pessimism suggested that they would be soaked to the last thread. So, naked as our first ancestor, he urged his horse into the stream, and when it was too deep for kicking--Stranger was ever uncertain and not to be trusted too far--he caught him firmly by the tail and felt the current grip them both. The feel of the water was glorious after so long a ride in the hot sun, and Happy Jack reveled in the cool swash of it up his shoulders to the back of his neck, as Stranger swam out and across to the sloping, green bank on the home side. When his feet struck bottom, Happy Jack should have waded also--but the water was so deliciously cool, slapping high up on his shoulders like that; he still floated luxuriously, towed by Stranger--until Stranger, his footing secure, glanced back at Happy sliding behind like a big, red fish, snorted and plunged up and on to dry land.

Happy Jack struck his feet down to bottom, stumbled and let go his hold of the tail, and Stranger, feeling the weight loosen suddenly, gave another plunge and went careering up the bank, snorting back at Happy Jack. Happy swore, waded out and made threats, but Stranger, seeing himself pursued by a strange figure whose only resemblance to his master lay in voice and profanity, fled in terror before him.

Happy Jack, crippling painfully on the stones, fled fruitlessly after, still shouting threats. Then, as Stranger, galloping wildly, disappeared over a ridge, he stood and stared stupidly at the place where the horse had last been seen. For the moment his mind refused to grasp all the horror of his position; he stepped gingerly over the hot sand and rocks, sought the shelter of a bit of overhanging bank, and sat dazedly down upon a rock too warm for comfort. He shifted uneasily to the sand beside, found that still hotter, and returned to the rock.

He needed to think; to grasp this disaster that had come so suddenly upon him. He looked moodily across to the southern bank, his chin sunken between moist palms, the while the water dried upon his person. To be set afoot, down here in the Badlands, away from the habitations of men and fifteen miles from the probable location of the Flying U camp, was not nice. To be set afoot _naked_--it was horrible, and unbelievable. He thought of tramping, barefooted and bare-legged, through fifteen miles of sage-covered Badlands to camp, with the sun beating down on his unprotected back, and groaned in anticipation. Not even his pessimism had ever pictured a thing so terrible.

He gazed at the gray-blue river which had caused this trouble that he must face, and forgetting the luxury of its coolness, cursed it venomously. Little waves washed up on the pebbly bank, and glinted in the sun while they whispered mocking things to him. Happy Jack gave over swearing at the river, and turned his wrath upon Stranger--Stranger, hurtling along somewhere through the breaks, with all Happy's clothes tied firmly to the saddle. Happy Jack sighed lugubriously when he remembered how firmly. A fleeting hope that, if he followed the trail of Stranger, he might glean a garment or two that had slipped loose, died almost before it lived. Happy Jack knew too well the kind of knots he always tied. His favorite boast that nothing ever worked loose on his saddle, came back now to mock him with its absolute truth.

The sun, dropping a bit lower, robbed him inch by inch of the shade to which he clung foolishly. He hunched himself into as small a space as his big frame would permit, and hung his hat upon his knees where they stuck out into the sunlight. It was very hot, and his position was cramped, but he would not go yet; he was still thinking--and the brain of Happy Jack worked ever slowly. In such an unheard-of predicament he felt dimly that he had need of much thought.

When not even his hat could shield him from the sun glare, he got up and went nipping awkwardly over the hot beach. He was going into the next river-bottom--wherever that was--on the chance of finding a cow-camp, or some cabin where he could, by some means, clothe himself. He did not like the idea of facing the Happy Family in his present condition; he knew the Happy Family. Perhaps he might find someone living down here next the river. He hoped so--for Happy Jack, when things were so bad they could not well be worse, was forced to give over the prediction of further evil, and pursue blindly the faintest whisper of hope. He got up on the bank, where the grass was kinder to his unaccustomed feet than were the hot stones below, and hurried away with his back to the sun, that scorched him cruelly.

In the next bottom--and he was long getting to it--the sage brush grew dishearteningly thick. Happy began to be afraid of snakes. He went slowly, stepping painfully where the ground seemed smoothest; he never could walk fifteen miles in his bare feet, he owned dismally to himself. His only hope lay in getting clothes.

Halfway down the bottom, he joyfully came upon a camp, but it had long been deserted; from the low, tumble-down corrals, and the unmistakable atmosphere of the place, Happy Jack knew it for a sheep camp. But nothing save the musty odor and the bare cabin walls seemed to have been left behind. He searched gloomily, thankful for the brief shade the cabin offered. Then, tossed up on the rafters and forgotten, he discovered a couple of dried sheep pelts, untanned and stiff, almost, as shingles. Still, they were better than nothing, and he grinned in sickly fashion at the find.

Realizing, in much pain, that some protection for his feet was an absolute necessity, he tore a pelt in two for sandals. Much search resulted in the discovery of a bit of rotted rope, which he unraveled and thereby bound a piece of sheepskin upon each bruised foot. They were not pretty, but they answered the purpose. The other pelt he disposed of easily by tying the two front legs together around his neck and letting the pelt hang down his back as far as it would reach. There being nothing more that he could do in the way of self-adornment, Happy Jack went out again into the hot afternoon. At his best, Happy Jack could never truthfully be called handsome; just now, clothed inadequately in gray Stetson hat and two meager sheepskins, he looked scarce human.

Cheered a bit, he set out sturdily over the hills toward the mouth of Suction Creek. The Happy Family would make all kinds of fools of themselves, he supposed, if he showed up like this; but he might not be obliged to appear before them in his present state of undress; he might strike some other camp, first. Happy Jack was still forced to be hopeful. He quite counted on striking another camp before reaching the wagons of the Flying U.

The sun slid farther and farther toward the western rim of tumbled ridges as Happy Jack, in his strange raiment, plodded laboriously to the north. The mantle he was forced to shift constantly into a new position as the sun's rays burned deep a new place, or the stiff hide galled his blistered shoulders. The sandals did better, except that the rotten strands of rope were continually wearing through on the bottom, so that he must stop and tie fresh knots, or replace the bit from the scant surplus which he had prudently brought along.

Till sundown he climbed toilfully up the steep hills and then scrambled as toilfully into the coulees, taking the straightest course he knew for the mouth of Suction Creek; that, as a last resort, while he watched keenly for the white flake against green which would tell of a tent pitched there in the wilderness. He was hungry--when he forgot other discomforts long enough to think of it. Worst, perhaps, was the way in which the gaunt sage brush scratched his unclothed legs when he was compelled to cross a patch on some coulee bottom. Happy Jack swore a great deal, in those long, heat-laden hours, and never did he so completely belie the name men had in sarcasm given him.

Just when he was given over to the most gloomy forebodings, a white square stood out for a moment sharply against a background of pines, far below him in a coulee where the sun was peering fleetingly before it dove out of sight over a hill. Happy Jack--of a truth, the most unhappy Jack one could find, though he searched far and long--stood still and eyed the white patch critically. There was only the one; but another might be hidden in the trees. Still, there was no herd grazing anywhere in the coulee, and no jingle of cavvy bells came to his ears, though he listened long. He was sure that it was not the camp of the Flying U, where he would be ministered unto faithfully, to be sure, yet where the ministrations would be mingled with much wit-sharpened raillery harder even to bear than was his present condition of sun-blisters and scratches. He thanked the Lord in sincere if unorthodox terms, and went down the hill in long, ungraceful strides.

It was far down that hill, and it was farther across the coulee. Each step grew more wearisome to Happy Jack, unaccustomed as he was to using his own feet as a mode of travel. But away in the edge of the pine grove were food and raiment, and a shelter from the night that was creeping down on him with the hurried stealth of a mountain lion after its quarry. He shifted the sheepskin mantle for the thousandth time; this time he untied it from his galled shoulders and festooned it modestly if unbecomingly about his middle.

Feeling sure of the unfailing hospitality of the rangeland, be the tent-dweller whom he might, Happy Jack walked boldly through the soft, spring twilight that lasts long in Montana, and up to the very door of the tent. A figure--a female figure--slender and topped by thin face and eyes sheltered behind glasses, rose up, gazed upon him in horror, shrieked till one could hear her a mile, and fell backward into the tent. Another female figure appeared, looked, and shrieked also--and even louder than did the first. Happy Jack, with a squawk of dismay, turned and flew incontinently afar into the dusk. A man's voice he heard, shouting inquiry; another, shouting what, from a distance, sounded like threats. Happy Jack did not wait to make sure; he ran blindly, until he brought up in a patch of prickly-pear, at which he yelled, forgetting for the instant that he was pursued. Somehow he floundered out and away from the torture of the stinging spines, and took to the hills. A moon, big as the mouth of a barrel, climbed over a ridge and betrayed him to the men searching below, and they shouted and fired a gun. Happy Jack did not believe they could shoot very straight, but he was in no mood to take chances; he sought refuge among a jumble of great, gray bowlders; sat himself down in the shadow and caressed gingerly the places where the prickly-pear had punctured his skin, and gave himself riotously over to blasphemy.

The men below were prowling half-heartedly, it seemed to him--as if they were afraid of running upon him too suddenly. It came to him that they were afraid of him--and he grinned feebly at the joke. He had not before stopped to consider his appearance, being concerned with more important matters. Now, however, as he pulled the scant covering of the pelt over his shoulders to keep off the chill of the night, he could not wonder that the woman at the tent had fainted. Happy Jack suspected shrewdly that he could, in that rig, startle almost any one.

He watched the coulee wistfully. They were making fires, down there below him; great, revealing bonfires at intervals that would make it impossible to pass their line unseen. He could not doubt that some one was _cached_ in the shadows with a gun. There were more than two men; Happy Jack thought that there must be at least four or five. He would have liked to go down, just out of gun range, and shout explanations and a request for some clothes--only for the women. Happy was always ill at ease in the presence of strange women, and he felt, just now, quite unequal to the ordeal of facing those two. He sat huddled in the shadow of a rock and wished profanely that women would stay at home and not go camping out in the Badlands, where their presence was distinctly inappropriate and undesirable. If the men down there were alone, he felt sure that he could make them understand. Seeing they were not alone, however, he stayed where he was and watched the fires, while his teeth chattered with cold and his stomach ached with the hunger he could not appease.

Till daylight he sat there unhappily and watched the unwinking challenge of the flames below, and miserably wished himself elsewhere; even the jibes of the Happy Family would be endurable, so long as he had the comfort afforded by the Flying U camp. But that was miles away. And when daylight brought warmth and returning courage, he went so far as to wish the Flying U camp farther away than it probably was. He wanted to get somewhere, and ask help from strangers rather than those he knew best.

With that idea fixed in his mind, he got stiffly to his bruised feet, readjusted the sheepskin and began wearily to climb higher. When the sun tinged all the hilltops golden yellow, he turned and shook his fist impotently at the camp far beneath him. Then he went on doggedly.

Standing at last on a high peak, he looked away toward the sunrise and made out a white speck on a grassy side-hill; beside it, a gray square moved slowly over the green. Sheep, and a sheep camp--and Happy Jack, hater of sheep though he was, hailed the sight as a bit of rare good luck. His spirits rose immediately, and he started straight for the place.

Down in the next coulee--there were always coulees to cross, no matter in what direction one would travel--he came near running plump into three riders, who were Irish Mallory, and Weary, and Pink. They were riding down from the direction of the camp where were the women, and they caught sight of him immediately and gave chase. Happy Jack had no mind to be rounded up by that trio; he dodged into the bushes, and though they dug long, unmerciful scratches in his person, clung to the shelter they gave and made off at top speed. He could hear the others shouting at one another as they galloped here and there trying to locate him, and he skulked where the bushes were deepest, like a criminal in fear of lynching.

Luck, for once, was with him, and he got out into another brush-fringed coulee without being seen, and felt himself, for the present, safe from that portion of the Happy Family. Thereafter he avoided religiously the higher ridges, and kept the direction more by instinct than by actual knowledge. The sun grew hot again and he hurried on, shifting the sheepskin as the need impressed.

When at last he sighted again the sheep, they were very close. Happy Jack grew cautious; he crept down upon the unsuspecting herder as stealthily as an animal hunting its breakfast. Herders sometimes carry guns--and the experience of last night burned hot in his memory.

Slipping warily from rock to rock, he was within a dozen feet, when a dog barked and betrayed his presence. The herder did not have a gun. He gave a yell of pure terror and started for camp after his weapon. Happy Jack, yelling also, with long leaps followed after. Twice the herder looked over his shoulder at the weird figure in gray hat and flapping sheepskin, and immediately after each glance his pace increased perceptibly. Still Happy Jack, desperate beyond measure, doggedly pursued, and his long legs lessened at each jump the distance between. From a spectacular viewpoint, it must have been a pretty race.

The herder, with a gasp, dove into the tent; into the tent Happy Jack dove after him--and none too soon. The hand of the herder had almost clasped his rifle when the weight of Happy bore him shrieking to the earthen floor.

"Aw, yuh locoed old fool, shut up, can't yuh, a minute?" Happy Jack, with his fingers pressed against the windpipe of the other, had the satisfaction of seeing his request granted at once. The shrieks died to mere gurgling. "What I want uh _you_," Happy went on crossly, "ain't your lifeblood, yuh dam' Swede idiot. I want some clothes, and some grub; and I want to borry that pinto I seen picketed out in the hollow, down there. Now, will yuh let up that yelling and act white, or must I pound some p'liteness into yuh? Say!"

"By damn, Ay tank yo' vas got soom crazy," apologized the herder humbly, sanity growing in his pale blue eyes. "Ay tank--"

"Oh, I don't give a cuss what you _tank_," Happy Jack cut in. "I ain't had anything to eat sence yesterday forenoon, and I ain't had any clothes on sence yesterday, either. Send them darn dogs back to watch your sheep, and get busy with breakfast! I've got a lot to do, t'-day. I've got to round up my horse and get my clothes that's tied to the saddle, and get t' where I'm going. Get up, darn yuh! I ain't going t' eat yuh--not unless you're too slow with that grub."

The herder was submissive and placating, and permitted Happy Jack to appropriate the conventional garb of a male human, the while coffee and bacon were maddening his hunger with their tantalizing odor. He seemed much more at ease, once he saw that Happy Jack, properly clothed, was not particularly fearsome to look upon, and talked volubly while he got out bread and stewed prunes and boiled beans for the thrice-unexpected guest.

Happy Jack, clothed and fed, became himself again and prophesied gloomily: "The chances is, that horse uh mine'll be forty miles away and still going, by this time; but soon as I can round him up, I'll bring your pinto back. Yuh needn't t' worry none; I guess I got all the sense I've ever had."

Once more astride a horse--albeit the pinto pony of a sheepherder--Happy Jack felt abundantly able to cope with the situation. He made a detour that put him far from where the three he most dreaded to meet were apt to be, and struck out at the pinto's best pace for the river at the point where he had crossed so disastrously the day before.

Having a good memory for directions and localities, he easily found the place of unhappy memory; and taking up Stranger's trail through the sand from there, he got the general direction of his flight and followed vengefully after; rode for an hour up a long, grassy coulee, and came suddenly upon the fugitive feeding quietly beside a spring. The bundle of clothing was still tied firmly to the saddle, and at sight of it the face of Happy Jack relaxed somewhat from its gloom.

When Happy rode up and cast a loop over his head Stranger nickered a bit, as if he did not much enjoy freedom while he yet bore the trappings of servitude. And his submission was so instant and voluntary that Happy Jack had not the heart to do as he had threatened many times in the last few hours--"to beat the hide off him." Instead, he got hastily into his clothes--quite as if he feared they might again be whisked away from him--and then rubbed forgivingly the nose of Stranger, and solicitously pulled a few strands of his forelock from under the brow-band. In the heart of Happy Jack was a great peace, marred only by the physical discomforts of much sun-blister and many deep scratches. After that he got thankfully into his own saddle and rode gladly away, leading the pinto pony behind him. He had got out of the scrape, and the Happy Family would never find it out; it was not likely that they would chance upon the Swede herder, or if they did, that they would exchange with him many words. The Happy Family held itself physically, mentally, morally and socially far above sheepherders--and in that lay the safety of Happy Jack.

It was nearly noon when he reached again the sheep camp, and the Swede hospitably urged him to stay and eat with him; but Happy Jack would not tarry, for he was anxious to reach the camp of the Flying U. A mile from the herder's camp he saw again on a distant hilltop three familiar figures. This time he did not dodge into shelter, but urged Stranger to a gallop and rode boldly toward them. They greeted him joyfully and at the top of their voices when he came within shouting distance.

"How comes it you're riding the pinnacles over here?" Weary wanted to know, as soon as he rode alongside.

"Aw, I just came over after more orders; hope they send somebody else over there, if they want any more repping done," Happy Jack said, in his customary tone of discontent with circumstances.

"Say! Yuh didn't see anything of a wild man, down next the river, did yuh?" put in Pink.

"Aw, gwan! what wild man?" Happy Jack eyed them suspiciously.

"Honest, there's a wild man ranging around here in these hills," Pink declared. "We've been mooching around all forenoon, hunting him. Got sight of him, early this morning, but he got away in the brush."

Happy Jack looked guilty, and even more suspicious. Was it possible that they had recognized him?

"The way we come to hear about him," Weary explained, "we happened across some campers, over in a little coulee to the west uh here. They was all worked up over him. Seems he went into camp last night, and like to scared the ladies into fits. He ain't got enough clothes on to flag an antelope, according to them, and he's about seven feet high, and looks more like a missing link than a plain, ordinary man. The one that didn't faint away got the best look at him, and she's ready to take oath he ain't more'n half human. They kept fires burning all night to scare him out uh the coulee, and they're going to break camp to-day and hike for home. They say he give a screech that'd put a crimp in the devil himself, and went galloping off, jumping about twenty feet at a lick. And--"

"Aw, gwan!" protested Happy Jack, feebly.

"So help me Josephine, it's the truth," abetted Pink, round-eyed and unmistakably in earnest. "We wouldn't uh taken much stock in it, either, only we saw him ourselves, not more than two hundred yards off. He was just over the hill from the coulee where they were camped, so it's bound to be the same animal. It's a fact, he didn't have much covering--just something hung over his shoulders. And he was sure wild, for soon as he seen us he humped himself and got into the brush. We could hear him go crashing away like a whole bunch of elephants. It's a damn' shame he got away on us," Pink sighed regretfully. "We was going to rope him and put him in a cage; we could sure uh made money on him, at two bits a look."

Happy Jack continued to eye the three distrustfully. Too often had he been the victim of their humor for him now to believe implicitly in their ignorance. It was too good to be real, it seemed to him. Still, if by any good luck it _were_ real, he hated to think what would happen if they ever found out the truth. He eased the clothing cautiously away from his smarting back, and stared hard into a coulee.

"It was likely some sheepherder gone clean nutty," mused Irish.

"Well, the most uh them wouldn't have far to go," ventured Happy Jack, thinking of the Swede.

"What we ought to do," said Pink, keen for the chase, "is for the whole bunch of us to come down here and round him up. Wonder if we couldn't talk Chip into laying off for a day or so; there's no herd to hold. I sure would like to get a good look at him."

"Somebody ought to take him in," observed Irish longingly. "He ain't safe, running around loose like that. There's no telling what he might do. The way them campers read his brand, he's plumb dangerous to meet up with alone. It's lucky you didn't run onto him, Happy."

"Well, I didn't," growled Happy Jack. "And what's more, I betche there ain't any such person."

"Don't call us liars to our faces, Happy," Weary reproved. "We told yuh, a dozen times, that we saw him ourselves. Yuh might be polite enough to take our word for it."

"Aw, gwan!" Happy Jack grunted, still not quite sure of how much--or how little--they knew. While they discussed further the wild man, he watched furtively for the surreptitious lowering of lids that would betray their insincerity. When they appealed to him for an opinion of some phase of the subject, he answered with caution. He tried to turn the talk to his experiences on the Shonkin range, and found the wild man cropping up with disheartening persistency. He shifted often in the saddle, because of the deep sunburns which smarted continually and maddeningly. He wondered if the boys had used all of that big box of carbolic salve which used to be kept in a corner of the mess-box; and was carbolic salve good for sun-blisters? He told himself gloomily that if there was any of it left, and if it were good for his ailment, there wouldn't be half enough of it, anyway. He estimated unhappily that he would need about two quarts.

When they reached camp, the welcome of Happy Jack was overshadowed and made insignificant by the strange story of the wild man. Happy Jack, mentally and physically miserable, was forced to hear it all told over again, and to listen to the excited comments of the others. He was sick of the subject. He had heard enough about the wild man, and he wished fervently that they would shut up about it. He couldn't see that it was anything to make such a fuss about, anyway. And he wished he could get his hands on that carbolic salve, without having the whole bunch rubbering around and asking questions about something that was none of their business. He even wished, in that first bitter hour after he had eaten and while they were lying idly in the shady spots, that he was back on the Shonkin range with an alien crew.

It was perhaps an hour later that Pink, always of an investigative turn of mind, came slipping quietly up through the rose bushes from the creek. The Happy Family, lying luxuriously upon the grass, were still discussing the latest excitement. Pink watched his chance and when none but Weary observed him jerked his head mysteriously toward the creek.

Weary got up, yawned ostentatiously, and sauntered away in the wake of Pink. "What's the matter, Cadwolloper?" he asked, when he was close enough. "Seen a garter snake?" Pink was notoriously afraid of snakes.

"You come with me, and I'll show yuh the wild man," he grinned.

"Mama!" ejaculated Weary, and followed stealthily where Pink led.

Some distance up the creek Pink signalled caution, and they crept like Indians on hands and knees through the grass. On the edge of the high bank they stopped, and Pink motioned. Weary looked over and came near whooping at the sight below. He gazed a minute, drew back and put his face close to the face of Pink.

"Cadwolloper, go get the bunch!" he commanded in a whisper, and Pink, again signalling needlessly for silence, slipped hastily away from the spot.

Happy Jack, secure in the seclusion offered by the high bank of the creek, ran his finger regretfully around the inside of the carbolic salve box, eyed the result dissatisfiedly, and applied the finger carefully to a deep cut on his knee. He had got that cut while going up the bluff, just after leaving the tent where had been the shrieking females. He wished there was more salve, and he picked up the cover of the box and painstakingly wiped out the inside; the result was disheartening.

He examined his knee dolefully. It was beginning to look inflamed, and it was going to make him limp. He wondered if the boys would notice anything queer about his walk. If they did, there was the conventional excuse that his horse had fallen down with him--Happy Jack hoped that it would be convincing. He took up the box again and looked at the shining emptiness of it. It had been half full--not enough, by a long way--and maybe some one would wonder what had become of it. Darn a bunch that always had to know everything, anyway!

Happy Jack, warned at last by that unnamed instinct which tells of a presence unseen, turned around and looked up apprehensively. The Happy Family, sitting in a row upon their heels on the bank, looked down at him gravely and appreciatively.

"There's a can uh wagon dope, up at camp," Cal Emmett informed him sympathetically.

"Aw--" Happy Jack began, and choked upon his humiliation.

"I used to know a piece uh poetry about a fellow like Happy," Weary remarked sweetly. "It said

'He raised his veil, the maid turned slowly round
Looked at him, shrieked, and fell upon the ground.'

Only, in this case," Weary smiled blandly down upon him, "Happy didn't have no veil."

"Aw, gwan!" adjured Happy Jack helplessly, and reached for his clothes, while the Happy Family chorused a demand for explanations.

[The end]
B. M. Bower's short story: Happy Jack, Wild Man